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How to Play Bocce

Imagine a game almost anyone can play that combines the best of skee-ball, bowling, and shuffleboard. Welcome to the ancient sport of bocce.


  • Step 1: Find friends to play with Bocce is the kissing cousin of other games like petanque and lawn bowling, and it's pretty simple. Grab as few as two and as many as eight people, and divide into two even teams, Team A and Team B.
  • Step 2: Get the right gear Get a set of bocce balls, and find an open outdoor space. If you'd like to play at a bocce venue, visit sites like "": and "": to find a local court -- or even information on building your own.
  • TIP: You can purchase bocce sets online or at your local sporting goods store.
  • Step 3: Get started There are lots of variations, but the easiest way to play is called "open" bocce. A member of Team A throws out the smallest ball -- known as the "pallino" or "jack" -- which acts as a marker. The same person gets the first chance to throw one of their larger balls as close to the pallino as possible.
  • TIP: Use an underarm throw or roll the bocce balls.
  • Step 4: Alternate turns Now, Team B gets their chance to throw a ball as close to the pallino as they can. The play alternates until all the larger balls are gone. Whoever lands closest to the pallino wins that set, making them the "in" team.
  • Step 5: Count up the score After all the balls have been thrown, the "in" team scores one point for every ball that's closer to the pallino than the other team's best ball, meaning the one they got nearest to the pallino.
  • Step 6: Start another round After the score is counted, the balls are gathered up and the "out" team throws the pallino to start another round. Play continues until one team scores a set number of points, usually about 13.
  • Step 7: Try the nearest ball rule For a slight variation, try the nearest ball rule. A member of Team A pitches the pallino and his or her larger ball. Team B then bowls, and tries to get closer to the pallino. If Team B lands a ball closer, Team A bowls again. If Team B uses all their balls and doesn't get closer, Team A wins.
  • Step 8: Use strategy What's that? You accidentally knocked the other team's ball out of the way, bumped the pallino to a new position, or surrounded the pallino with your team's balls like a fortress? Play both offensively and defensively to become a bocce master.
  • FACT: The Italian military leader Giuseppe Garibaldi is widely credited with reintroducing bocce into popular culture in the 1800s.

You Will Need

  • Bocce balls
  • Open space or a court
  • 2 to 8 players

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